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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Alfred Stieglitz

Names:
Joint: White & Stieglitz 
Dates:  1864, 1 January - 1946, 13 July
Born:  US, NJ, Hoboken
Died:  US
Active:  US
 
  
Stieglitz revolutionized American photography, opening The Little Galleries in New York, showing art and photography in juxtaposition, creating the seminal photography publication Camera Work, encouraging young photographers like Steichen, Strand and Weston and creating work which gave photography the serious sophistication and the class it had never had before. It is hard to imagine in what direction photography would have gone had Stieglitz not been involved. He had the energy, the drive, the artistic vision and the determination of ten men and the enemies to prove it.
 
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts]
The bookplates and collections label of Alfred Stieglitz were woodblock designs created by Arthur Allen Lewis who also had an exhibition of his work at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in 1909.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Alfred Stieglitz
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

 
  
Stieglitz was the fountainhead of American artistic photography, about whom much is published. He produced iconic images, promoted the work of others, published periodicals, and ran galleries. He started as a naturalistic photographer in the 1880s, turned into a pictorialist around the turn of the twentieth century, and then worked as a modernist from the time of World War I.
 
Alfred Stieglitz was born on January 1, 1864, in Hoboken, New Jersey, but from the time he was seven lived primarily in New York. In 1881, he went with his family to Europe and a few years later began studying photography in Berlin. He soon was writing technical articles for the photographic press and in 1887 won his first prize for a photograph. Stieglitz returned to America in 1890 and for the next five years helped run the Photochrome Engraving Company, where he learned about printing.
 
In 1891, he joined the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York, commencing a long period of activity with fellow camera workers. He edited the American Amateur Photographer for a few years and then helped found the Camera Club of New York in 1896. He presented a one-person exhibition of his work at the club in 1899 and founded and edited its quarterly Camera Notes (1897-1903).
 
Stieglitz organized and ran the Photo-Secession, an elite group of creative photographers, and its allied periodical and gallery. After the group’s inaugural exhibition in 1902, he began publishing Camera Work (1903-1917), the world’s most beautiful magazine of photography. In 1905, with the help of Edward Steichen, he opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, later known as 291 for its address on Fifth Avenue. Here, Stieglitz presented not only the work of advanced pictorial photographers like Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence H. White, but also the then little-known art of European painters such as Cézanne, Matisse, and Picasso. He was responsible for numerous large, museum-sponsored exhibitions of artistic photographs and was involved in the important 1913 Armory Show of modern art.
 
After closing 291 in 1917, he ran two additional galleries in New York. The first was the Intimate Gallery, in the late 1920s; the second was An American Place, from 1929 until his death. The exhibitions at both galleries focused on a small group of American modernist painters, including John Marin, Marsden Hartley, and Georgia O’Keeffe, whom he married in 1924. During this time, Stieglitz was making both photographic portraits of O’Keeffe and a series of cloud pictures he termed Equivalents, two of his most important bodies of work.
 
Late in life, he gifted his own photographs plus his collection of the work of many pictorialists to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After Stieglitz died on July 13, 1946, his ashes were buried at Lake George, in upstate New York, where he and his family had summered much of his life. 
  
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
The 20th century’s greatest champion of photography as an art form. Editor of Camera Notes, the journal of the Camera Club of New York, Stieglitz soon became leader of the Pictorialist movement in New York, co-founder of the Photo-Secession in 1902, and editor and publisher of the masterful periodical Camera Work from 1903 to 1917. With Steichen’s assistance, his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, later called 291, then The Intimate Gallery (1925–1929), and An American Place (1929–1946) first showcased in America the new modern art from Europe by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Cézanne, Brancusi, and Rodin and introduced American painters O’Keeffe, Marin, Hartley, and Dove. Exhibiting painting with photography, his gallery showed photographers Clarence White, Coburn, Strand, Steichen, Adams, and Porter. Abandoning the soft-focus aesthetic of Pictorialism by World War I, Stieglitz became a staunch advocate of straight photography, adopting less self-conscious methods to depict the fast-paced cacophony that defined modern life, and simplifying his compositions to clarify light and form. His highly regarded images using a hand-held camera of the streets of New York City, portraits of his wife, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, and his "equivalents" series of cloud studies that were analogs for emotional experience, helped realize the profoundly metaphorical possibilities of the medium. 
  
(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Thumbnail
Alfred Stieglitz
Self-portrait 
1911
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Exhibitions on this website

Theme: Pictorialism
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies (1897) 
PhVTitle | Lightbox | Checklist
 
  

Visual indexes

ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: A Dirigible
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: A Wet Day on the Boulevard, Paris (taken 1894)
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: An Icy Night
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Autochromes
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Bookplates a collection labels - woodblock designs by Arthur Allen Lewis
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Camera Notes
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Camera Work
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Camera Work: An Apology
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Clouds - Music (1922)
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Equivalents
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Georgia O'Keeffe
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Italy: Venice
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Lantern slides
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Les Joueurs de Cartes
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Photo-Secession and the Little Galleries, 291 Fifth Avenue
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Picturesque Bits of New York and Other Studies (1897)
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Rebecca Salsbury Strand
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: The Hand of Man
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: The Letter Box
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: The Netherlands: Coastal communities
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: The Steerage
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: The Terminal
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Trees
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: USA: New York
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: USA: New York at Night
ThumbnailAlfred Stieglitz: Winter on Fifth Avenue
 
All photographs by this photographer 
  
 
  

Supplemental information

 

Alfred Stieglitz
American, 1864-1946

Alfred Stieglitz is often called the father of modern photography because of his driving force in the fight to have photography recognized as an art form. Camera Work was one of the greatest accomplishments of Stieglitz in his mission to bring the level of photographic art in the United States up to the level of work being produced in England and Europe. After leaving The Camera Club, New York and the editor's position of Camera Notes in 1903, Stieglitz pulled together the leading photographers of the day who were committed to making photographs as forms of art. He formed a new organization called the Photo-Secession, and exhibited members photographs at his gallery, "291", and published their photographs in his own magazine which he called Camera Work.
 
Camera Work reproduced photographs by Kasebier, Steichen, Stieglitz, White, and other leading photographers in high quality photogravure. The editions were small and the reproductions were remarkably faithful to the original print, both in tone and texture. Stieglitz described the photogravures as "suitable for framing." Camera Work was also a leader in printing critical thought on art by George Bernard Shaw, Gertrude Stein, Sadakichi Hartmann, and Mabel Dodge. Stieglitz championed the work of early modernist painters, and reproduced paintings by Picasso, Cezanne, Rodin, Marin, and Matisse.
 
Among his other achievements, Stieglitz was a member of the Society of Amateur Photographers in 1891 (which became the N.Y. Camera Club in 1897), and he was the first American to be elected to The Linked Ring (1894). With twelve others he established the Photo-Secession, serving as director in 1902, and he received more than 150 medals and awards; among them the Progress Medal of RPS (1924), Townsend Harris Medal (1927), Honorary Fellowship of the Photographic Society of America (1940) and P.H. Emerson Award (1887).
 
[Contributed by Lee Gallery] 
  
 

Internet biographies

Terms and Conditions

 
Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography.Show on this siteGo to website
 

Internet resources

Terms and Conditions

 
Get the Picture: Thinking About Photographs, seven photographers 
http://www.artsmia.org ... 
  
Alfred Stieglitz 
http://www.geh.org ... 
  
Alfred Stieglitz 
http://www.pbs.org ... 
This is part of the excellent American Masters series of television programs broadcast by PBS in the USA. 
  
National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.) 
http://www.nga.gov 
Has major collections of Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Robert Frank, Irving Penn and Alfred Stieglitz. There are a number of exhibitions on-line but to locate the holdings for an individual photographer you need to use the search options 
  
Pictorialist exhibition catalogues 
http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org ... 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has scanned more than one hundred Pictorialist photography exhibition catalogues, most of them donated to the Museum by Alfred Stieglitz in 1922 and many of them not found elsewhere. These fully searchable scans provide a valuable new research tool for people studying turn-of-the-century photographic history. (Malcolm Daniel, 28 June 2013, British Photographic History) 
  
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.98 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.489-490 
  
• Fernandez, Horacio (ed.) 2000 Fotografía Pública: Photography in Print 1919-1939 (Aldeasa) p.232 [This Spanish exhibition catalogue is one of the best sources for illustrations of photomontage and book design for the period between the two World Wars.] 
  
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.228-229 [Includes a well written short biography on Alfred Stieglitz with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
  
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.467 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.243-245 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.261-262 
  
• Koetzle, Hans-Michael 2002 Photo Icons: The Story Behind the Pictures - Volume 1 (Koln: Taschen) [This book discusses one photograph "The Steerage (1907)" by Alfred Stieglitz in considerable detail. An excellent source for a detailed analysis.] 
  
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.118, 120, 121, 165, 166, 195 
  
• Naef, Weston 2004 Photographers of Genius at the Getty (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) [For this photographer there is a description and three sample photographs from the Getty collection. p.92-95] 
  
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Alfred Stieglitz are included in this classic history.] 
  
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.233, Plate 12 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Alfred Stieglitz this is a useful starting point.] 
  
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.74 [Analyzes a single photograph by Alfred Stieglitz.] 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Alfred Stieglitz was represented in 88 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
  
Library of Congress, Washington, USA 
  
Approximate number of records: ? 
Note: A single record may contain more than one photograph.
Click here
 

Quotations

The wit and wisdom.

 
"equivalents or my most profound life experience, my basic philosophy of life."
"As I hold the future well-being of photography very dear I must see to it that these forces which militate against it be opposed and destroyed."
"Camera Work - The magazine without an "If" - Fearless - Independent - Without Favor."
"Don't believe that because of your lack of taste you are priviledged to air your opinions on pictorial photography and art matters in general. The world in its entirety is not a camera club."
"I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for Truth my obsession."
"I will be sitting with the plate of a picture I have just taken in my hands. It will be the picture I have always known that someday I would have to take. It will be the perfect photograph, embodying all that I have ever wished to say. I will just have developed it; just have looked at it; just have seen that it was exactly what I wanted. The room will be empty, quiet. The walls will be bare - clean. I will sit looking at the picture. It will slip from my hands, and break as it falls to the ground. I will be dead. They will come. No one will ever have seen the picture nor know what it was. That, for me, is my story of perfection."
"I wish I could come to London and throw a bomb into the whole photographic community. It needs it as badly as it needs it here. Really needs it everywhere - Photographers are too easily satisfied - and are mentally a slovenly lot."
"I would rather be a first-class photographer in a community of first-class photographers, than the greatest photographer in a community of nonentities."
"If you really care about a thing, you do something about it. You don't sit around talking about it, you act. The act came first and then the word."
"It is not art in the professionalized sense about which I care, but that which is created sacredly, as a result of a deep inner experience, with all of oneself, and that becomes ‘art‘ in time."
"It [the Photo-Secession] is simply a loose organisation of American pictorial photographers, who, having certain views in common, have found it desirable to band themselves together and to secede from the conventional ideas of what constitutes photography, and to compel the recognition of photography as a medium of individual expression."
"Photography being in the main a process in monochrome, it is on subtle gradations in tone and value that its artistic beauty so frequently depends. It is therefore, highly necessary that reproductions of photographic work must be made with exceptional care and discretion if the spirit of the originals is to be retained, though no reproductions can do full justice to the subtleties of some photographs. Such supervision will be given to the illustrations which will appear in each number of Camera Work. Only examples of such work as gives evidence of individuality and artistic worth, regardless of school, or contains some exceptional feature of technical merit, or such as exemplifies some treatment worthy of consideration, will find recognition in this pages. Nevertheless, the pictorial will be the dominating feature of the magazine."
"The object of the Photo-Secession is: to advance photography as applied to pictorial expression; to draw together those Americans practicing or otherwise interested in art, and to hold from time to time, at varying places, exhibitions not necessarily limited to the productions of the Photo-Secession or to American work."
"The scene fascinated me: A round hat; the funnel leaning left, the stairway leaning right; the white drawbridge, its railing made of chain; white suspenders crossed on the back of a man below; circular iron machinery; a mast that cut into the sky, completing a triangle. I stood spellbound. I saw shapes related to one another--a picture of shapes, and underlying it, a new vision that held me: simple people; the feeling of ship, ocean, sky; a sense of release that I was away from the mob called rich. Rembrandt came into my mind and I wondered would he have felt as I did . . . I had only one plate holder with one unexposed plate. Could I catch what I saw and felt? I released the shutter. If I had captured what I wanted, the photograph would go far beyond any of my previous prints. It would be a picture based on related shapes and deepest human feeling - a step in my own evolution, a spontaneous discovery."
"The sharp outlines that we Americans are so proud of as being proof of great perfection in our art are untrue to Nature, and hence an abomination to the artist."
"The trouble with most photographers, and for that matter also with painters, and other people, is, that they are always trying to do something which is outside of themselves. In consequence they produce nothing that means anything to those who have the gift or intuition for truth: all else is really not worth a tinker's damn."
"The true thing can never be brought to light. The more beautiful it is, the less completely can it be brought to light."
"To see the moment is to liberate the moment."
"When I make a picture I make love. Unless what is created communicates the pristine quality of the first kiss - unless it is born of a sense of awe and wonder - it does not deserve to be called a work of art."
"… I have looked at your pictures. Of their kind they are above average. But after all is said and done, what are they? As gum prints, and multiple gum prints they are clever. As pictures they are attractive to those who do not see much below the surface. As experiments they undoubtedly mean something to you, and may mean something to those experimenting in gum. From the point of view of expression, both pictures lack all element of living value. Either as photographs or anything else. Of course this will be difficult for you to comprehend, what I mean, but it is impossible for me to go into a dissertation on this subject at present. The ground has been fully covered in Camera Work. It is a vital subject. Of course this is looking at things from the highest point of view. In fact the only point of view."
 
  
 
  
 
  
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